Hurricane Elsa – 180,000 people evacuated from homes in Cuba as deadly storm batters the Caribbean

MORE than 180,000 people have been forced to evacuate their homes in Cuba after Hurricane Elsa battered several Caribbean islands with torrential downpours, killing at least three.

Authorities evacuated residents on Sunday as a precaution with the storm expected to hit Monday.

Read our Hurricane Elsa live blog for the very latest news and updates on the storm…

The storm's center was located about 270 miles southeast of capital Havana on Monday morning and was moving northwest at 15mph.

Its maximum winds had strengthened to around 65mph, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Residents carried out maintenance work and moved furniture before the storm hit.

Forecasters predict a storm surge of three to five feet could hit the southern coast on Monday and isolated areas could see up to 15 inches of rain.

Rain fell intermittently in Cuba’s eastern provinces on Sunday as the storm passed by to the south.

Retiree Yolanda Tabao, 73, told AP: "So far, it’s a soft, serene rain. There are no downpours. The streets are not overflowing. I thought it could be worse."

Local volunteer Rafael Carmenate, who lives facing the beach in Santa Cruz del Sur, said: “We have a little water shower. The sea has not intruded. It's cloudy and gusty.”

The evacuation comes as Elsa pummeled several Caribbean islands over the weekend.

One death was reported in St. Lucia, according to the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency.

Meanwhile, a boy, 15, and a 75-year-old woman died on Saturday in separate events in the Dominican Republic after walls collapsed on them.

Waves 12-to-14 ft (356cm to 427cm) high washed debris ashore in capital Santo Domingo.

In Barbados, more than 1,100 residents reported damage to property and at least 62 properties collapsed as the island was battered with strong gusts and torrential downpours.

Downed trees also were reported in Haiti, which is especially vulnerable to floods and landslides because of widespread erosion and deforestation.

Haiti's Civil Protection Agency said Sunday that three people had been injured by downed trees.

Banana and plantain crops were battered in St Vincent as wind speeds of 85mph (140kph) were recorded.

Elsa's storm surge was expected to raise water levels by as much as one to five feet (30 to 152cm) above normal in some areas.

The storm is expected to barrel its way through Cuba and could hit parts of Florida.

Governor Ron DeSantis urged Floridians in the southern part of the state to prepare for the weather system.

He warned that impacts from Elsa could affect the Florida Keys as early as Monday.

He said: "All Floridians in the potential path of this storm need to prepare for the risk of isolated tornadoes, storm surge, heavy rainfall, and flash flooding.”

Parts of the Florida Keys were placed under a tropical storm watch on Saturday evening.

Some models show the hurricane could spin into the Gulf or up the Atlantic Coast.

A storm watch is in effect for the Florida Keys from Craig Key westward to Dry Tortugas.

Forecasters predicted rain, storm surges, and strong winds from Elsa to affect the area and the Florida peninsula early this week.

The state of emergency was issued in 15 counties that are in the potential path of Elsa.

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These cover Charlotte; Citrus; Collier; DeSoto; Hardee; Hernando; Hillsborough; Lee; Levy; Manatee; Miami-Dade; Monroe; Pasco; Pinellas; and Sarasota Counties.

This was issued to give state and local governments ample time, resources, and flexibility to prepare for the storm to hit.

NHC meteorologist Robert Garcia said: "It isn't unreasonable for South Floridians to be ready for the potential of a Category 1 hurricane knocking on our door early next week."

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